How to piss off a nation? One word: Sequester
A few moments ago, President Obama renewed his call for a temporary solution to averting the sequester — one that contains a mix of spending cuts and revenue increases, rather than just the spending cuts Republicans want. Obama pointedly noted that the GOP position was akin to Democrats demanding that we avert the sequester only through tax hikes.
This is a difficult political position for Republicans to sustain, for the reasons Greg pointed out this morning. But judging by the immediate Twitter response to Obama’s remarks, House Republicans are convinced they can blame the sequester on Obama, or at least, certain they can avoid political blowback for any economic slowdown that comes as a result of implementing large, across-the-board spending cuts. Their reasoning is straightforward: The public is results-oriented and unconcerned about the particulars of congressional procedure. Americans neither know nor care about how created the sequester, they are just looking for Washington to get something done. And since, for most Americans, the president is representative of Washington, any gridlock will harm Obama far more than it does Congress, and Republicans in particular.
In one sense Republicans are close to the mark as far as the political dynamics of this are concerned. Yes, Obama can use the “bully pulpit” to castigate Republicans and highlight the consequences of letting the sequester go through. As The Hill points out, the White House has already warned “that the cuts will reduce loan guarantees to small businesses, end Head Start funding for 70,000 children and leave 373,000 seriously mentally ill people without treatment.”
But as we saw with the fight over the fiscal cliff in 2011, those warnings mean little to a public that just wants action from Washington. Remember, the outcome of that fight wasn’t just lower approval for Congress and congressional Republicans, but a lower rating for Obama as well. That fall saw Obama’s popularity reach its nadir, and he has the debt ceiling crisis to thank for it. Even if he wins the sequester stand-off, odds are good the public will blame him for any economic harm that comes as a result.